Between cheating, counterfeits, Twitch chat, and more cheating, Magic Twitter has been ablaze over the last week.
Some have been viewing this as "negativity," but it hasn't had that effect on me. It can be depressing to shed a light on some of the worst things about the community we all love, but at least now we know what we should work toward fixing. Overall, it's a good thing.
I've been rather loud and controversial on Twitter lately. For a long time, I sat idly by while travesties occur, wanting to be seen as a source of positivity in the community. That's a fine stance to take in the short term, but if I want things to be better long term, I need to take a more proactive stance.
Maybe shouting into the Twitter void isn't the best way to effect change, but by voicing my opinions, raising awareness, and standing up for what I believe in, it's more likely that others do the same. Apathy buries these issues and allows them to continue existing. If the alternative is sitting back and doing nothing while these issues, big and small, plague our community, I refuse.
Let's start with the big one.
Let's be clear: Cheating is the same thing as stealing.
When you cheat against someone in a tournament, you are stealing equity from them. In the case of someone like Alex Bertoncini, a known, historically unrepentant cheater, he is also stealing the experience of having fun while playing Magic because of the anxiety and stressed caused by feeling like you have to be hyper-vigilant.
Honestly, I wish Alex would have won Grand Prix Los Angeles. In a way, I think the mob was relieved he finally lost in the Top 8. Maybe if Wizards of the Coast had to plaster his face all over their website, things would be different and something would happen. Instead, this one will probably get swept under the rug regardless of how many damning stories there are of him doing shady things over the course of the weekend.
Given that Alex made a mockery of everything in his Top 8 profile by claiming he "had turned over a new leaf," he should not be allowed to play Magic ever again.
Hero of the people.— Austin Cook (@patriotfan09) August 20, 2018
The amount of people cheering for Alex's downfall was staggering, but unfortunately it seems to have quelled the outrage.
Now that Alex has written a half-hearted apology, it seems like most people are ready to forgive. After all, he "admitted to cheating," gave some money to charity, and talked about how he hated himself. It sounds like he's changed.
What convenient timing, though. If WotC banned him now, it sure would look pretty bad for them considering it's in the midst of him owning up to his mistakes and apologizing for them. Overall, it's well-played by Alex.
Keep in mind that if there is one instance of his cheating in a premeditated manner, his entire manifesto goes out the window.
Then again, there's also this.
I believe in redemption and second chances. However, I've read similar words coming from Alex not once, but twice— Helene Bergeot (@HeleneBergeot) August 22, 2018
"But shouldn't everyone be given a second chance?"
Alex has had a second chance and a third.
Since I was creeping on PSulli's Twitter anyway, I might as well use this old favorite.
Being banned from Magic is more analogous to being 86'd from your local bar than being sent to jail and I don't think we should use the language of criminal justice ("rehabilitation" and the like) to describe it.— Patrick Sullivan (@BasicMountain) March 18, 2018
Playing Magic is a privilege, not a right. If you are unable to do so in a way that's both moral and ethical, you should take a break until you can.
9. Hall of Fame Voting
Every year, Hall of Fame voting brings out the mudslinging. Some are quick to defend their friends.
I feel I need to step up for my friend Lee Shi Tian. pic.twitter.com/hBhvfMGp6E— Andrea Mengucci (@Mengu09) August 16, 2018
Andrea wrote: "Stories pile up, they definitely do. But I look at facts, fact is my friend Lee Shi Tian was never disqualified from any Magic: The Gathering tournament."
From Pierre Dagan: "We have judges and a committee to determine who is cheating or not. They said he is not, and I am not arrogant enough to pretend I know better from the two matches we played or the four I saw on coverage."
By this logic, everyone who is currently playing sanctioned Magic is also clean, and we know that isn't the case. Opportunistic cheating is incredibly difficult to catch. It takes time.
The real fact is that you don't acquire over ten stories of you doing shady things unless you're actually doing shady things. Is Lee Shi Tian good at Magic? Undeniably, but so are Marcio and Alex. That alone isn't reason enough to get you into the Hall of Fame.
Some allegations have been made about Seth Manfield, but they basically amount to "he plays consistently slow" and "he will ask you to scoop him into Top 8." There is nothing about making extra land drops, using summoning sick creatures immediately, "mysteriously" getting extra energy or loyalty, or hiding cards under a notepad.
If you are heavily suspected of being an opportunistic cheater and want to get into the Hall of Fame, clean up your game. If all those "mistakes" that were in your favor were truly mistakes, stop making them. Continue to play clean and the suspicions will eventually fade. The same applies to Seth. If, for whatever reason he doesn't get in this year, he should take the stalling allegations to heart and not pile shuffle when there are ten minutes on the clock. Continuing to disregard criticism will further suspicions.
Additionally, Hall of Fame inductees from the last two years include Yuuya Watanabe, Josh Utter-Leyton, Martin Juza, and Owen Turtenwald. The total amount of shady stories between these four?
Streamer Matt Foulkes was disqualified from an event over the weekend for attempting to scam his tournament organizer out of an extra Flooded Strand promo.
Judge didn't collect my deck list, during round 1, go to hand it in, they ask did I receive a goody bag, I said no cos free promo, this was lieing to a judge and I got called on it, I'm not a cheater just a very stupid and shitty person...— Matthew Foulkes (@matthewfoulkes) August 20, 2018
Patrick Sullivan, as always, had the best, most concise response.
[while stealing a tomato] free tomato, https://t.co/K3Mg2XQeXZ— Patrick Sullivan (@BasicMountain) August 20, 2018
Justify it however you want, but theft is theft.
"It was only a promo."
"It was just a mistake."
When asked a simple question, most folks don't default to "Yes, I'd like to receive something I'm not supposed to." It goes to show state of mind and what they're capable of. The fact that he just shrugged it off is also damning. Having ties to Fabrizio Anteri, another known cheater recently let off suspension, is just icing.
Cedric summed up the whole situation better than I could:
ICYMI, Matthew Foulkes lied about receiving a goodie bag this weekend in order to get another one, essentially stealing from both the tournament organizer and potentially another competitor. He got caught in his lie and was disqualified from the tournament in question. He then made a half-hearted apology on Twitter and had his fair share of defenders, saying that what he did wasn't that big of a deal and was similar to "filling up a water cup with soda" as if that's somehow acceptable behavior.
On the surface, it doesn't make much sense why this would cause me to explode. But it did and here's why - ignoring a few other acts, to me, stealing is one of the worst crimes one can commit. Because when one steals, they are communicating the following:
"This thing that is yours? That you may have worked very hard for? Or someone gave to you as a gift? That may or may not have sentimental value to you? That's mine now. And you know why? Because I'm more important than you and I don't care about you. I only care about myself."
7. Twitch Chat
Twitch Chat is a known cesspool of vitriol and hatred, but that doesn't mean we can't try to clean it up.
A woman shows up on camera in the background at #GPLA. Immediately, there is a dozen sexist comments. In response, I write "This is why women avoid Magic", which is removed by the mods. This message is allowed to stand. pic.twitter.com/AlPM0s3gJH— Swedebit (@Swedebit) August 18, 2018
For as concerned as WotC execs seem to be about tapping into those Hearthstone markets, they really don't do a good job of attempting to capture their attention once they're watching. Featuring a Beta Rochester Draft that is unengaging, boring, and not something people can replicate even if they wanted to? Sounds great! Join the conversation in Twitch Chat, which will instantly make you wish you never clicked on this in the first place!
So far, those in charge aren't doing a great job at making Magic feel welcoming. If "sweep cheating allegations under the rug while allowing sexist comments to remain" is their MO, they are succeeding.
This is somewhat off topic, but criticizing those who preach about inclusivity while calling out those who do wrong is common practice these days. They say we are just as bad as those we are fighting against, but I disagree. Magic should be inclusive, but not to those who would harm others, cheat, steal, or generally make our community a worse place.
6. Counterfeit Cards Make Their Way into Circulation
Andrew Jessup was recently issued a game loss when a deck check revealed that some of the cards he was playing with (which were borrowed from a friend and recently purchased from an online vendor) were actually counterfeit.
Sorry, I haven't been able to respond to much. Have been focused on the gp. The cards on the left are fake, and the ones one the right are real. And to clear some things up, the cards weren't mine. I borrowed the entire deck from a friend who had recently purchased the cards. pic.twitter.com/9Vu1oxGIsw— Andrew Jessup (@TheBetterJessup) August 19, 2018
This sucks for Andrew, it sucks for his friend who is out hundreds of dollars, but it also sucks for everyone involved. Having to be vigilant about what cards you buy shouldn't be a tax you have to pay as a result of wanting to play Magic.
Giving a game loss penalty in this situation is practically a must; otherwise players could claim ignorance while playing with counterfeit cards and not be punished. It would set a bad precedence.
5. Representation Matters, Part 1
Both @LuisSalvatto and @PiedDiego are in #GPLA at 6-1 with one round to go in Day One. Argentina's #MTG scene is getting stronger all the time and they are excited about nearly twice as many players at their Nationals as last year. pic.twitter.com/2oGdUaGdvO— Brian David-Marshall (@Top8Games) August 19, 2018
Having talked to literal generations of Brazilian players who started playing / playing more competitively cause of Carlos's win at worlds I would assume we are seeing something similar in Argentina right now.— Brian David-Marshall (@Top8Games) August 19, 2018
An entire country gets fired up over one person having a tiny bit of success? Yes, and it happens all the time! Pro Tour champion and Hareruya Latin member Lucas Berthoud cited Carlos Romao's Worlds win as a motivating factor and @MTGduck said the same boom happened in Spain as a result of Javier Dominguez's finals appearance at the World Championship. Another anecdote noted that the same sort of thing happens in every competitive arena.
Happens in every competitive arena. USA makes a deep run in the World Cup and soccer signups skyrocket in the US— Steve B (@SteveB_YNWA) August 19, 2018
Maybe, just maybe, Wizards of the Coast could be utilizing their own players to appeal to an untapped market share rather than spending hundreds of thousands on trying to tap into the Hearthstone market.
And yet, when Grand Prix Sao Paulo was coming up, the @wizards_magicbr account Tweeted about artists and R&D members, and nothing about the superstars they had in attendance. Perhaps casual fans who follow that Twitter account might consider that a reason to show up.
4. Representation Matters, Part 2
This weekend I defeated a field of over 450 players to become back-to-back English National Champion! I am so incredibly happy, and thrilled to be attending the WMC again! #MTGnationals pic.twitter.com/SvPvx7xIl0— Autumn Burchett (@AutumnLilyMTG) August 19, 2018
Congratulations to the first female Norwegian National Champion!— Mikael Gyhagen (@UrborgLibrarian) August 19, 2018
(Also the rest of the top 4) pic.twitter.com/GKafCnPkPa
Omg 9th at swiss #MTGNationals with CLOOOOOSE tiebreakers (0.02% difference)— Nissa Cosplay (@NissaCosplay) August 18, 2018
But still happy with my result overall really awesome event, happy I got to wear my old Shadowstorm Vizier cosplay again#mtg #cosplay pic.twitter.com/FEbmlGu0jW
Various MTG Nationals have been taking place over the last month, and last weekend, several women and non-binary folks crushed it and there is virtually no coverage anywhere.
3. Standard Is Awful
Something needs to change about Standard. Summers tend to be lulls for Magic, which is understandable, but coupling that with an imminent rotation and a format dominated by a singular archetype and you have a recipe that gets you a 700-person Grand Prix. In this day and age, that should be a red flag, even if there were two other major events in the United States that weekend.
You could make an argument that Providence is difficult to get to, but previous events in Providence had 1600 (2017), 1200 (2016), and 1000 (2015) players. Only 700 players is a large drop-off for a venue that was steadily climbing. Maybe the entry fee to GPs finally burst a bubble, at least for Standard?
Either way, Guilds of Ravnica cannot come fast enough.
2. The GAM Podcast Hosts Charity Auction Benefiting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Bryan Gottlieb and I had been planning on doing something with our growing reach for a while now. Since we finally had a couple weeks of downtime following Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, we put the wheels in motion for The GAM Podcast's first charity auction.
Our Patrons got to vote on who the auction would benefit, and they chose well. 100% of the proceeds go the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Charity auction benefiting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (@afspnational) is live!— Gerry Thompson (@G3RRYT) August 21, 2018
Bid on rare MTG swag, including this R&D exclusive playmat and the FOIL 25th anniversary playmat.
If you can't bid, please RT and help a good cause!https://t.co/1bnx01Dq7F pic.twitter.com/J3SBStlznP
1. The Shining Beacon of Light
At the end of the day, there's still plenty to be appreciative of in the Magic community. Things like Dana Fischer's globetrotting adventures, Guilds of Ravnica on the horizon, the World Championship, and also the pillars of our community who enrich our lives every day by being a positive influence.
Logan Nettles, cousin of the Duke family (yes, that Duke family) took down Grand Prix Los Angeles in convincing fashion. While he already had fans from his online presence as Jaberwocki, Logan is positioning himself to become another one of the all-time greats.
In fact, Kenji Tsumura seems to think he's already there.
You may wonder why Logan's victory photo doesn't contain the trophy, and that's because it was mistakenly sent to Grand Prix Providence.